Rabies is a life-threatening virus which spreads through the saliva of some animals. Humans tend to contract rabies virus if they have been bitten by animals carrying the infection. In the United States, rabies can be transmitted through bats, foxes, raccoons or skunks.
The infection can also be spread through wolves, coyote, and dogs not inoculated with rabies vaccine. Most of the reported cases of rabies occurred with coming in contact with a bat. Most recently, a 55-year-old male was diagnosed with rabies in the state of Utah, United States. The virus was spread through the bats living in the person’s attic.
What Causes Rabies to Spread
Raccoons are the most likely carriers of rabies in the United States but most reported cases of rabies have occurred through bat bites. Not all bats carry the rabies virus, research shows only 1% of the bat population is infected but those are the ones most likely to attack people.
Rabies is spread mostly through the bite of wild animals and sometimes also through pet dogs which have not been vaccinated. The fatal virus does not only spread with a bite but it can also be spread if an open wound is exposed to the saliva of the rabid animal (infected with rabies) or the saliva gets into the mouth, nose or eyes.
Once the virus enters in the human system, it reproduces and travels through the nerves to other parts of the body. It spreads to the brain nerves and spine causing the brain and the muscles around the spine to swell, then it reaches the salivary glands.
Signs and Symptoms of Rabies Virus
The bites from almost all rabid animals can result in death if not treated promptly and within a short span of time. The incubation period is usually shorter in children or people infected with a large dose of rabies, such as a deep bite.
As the virus progresses it spreads into the muscle and affects the brains nerves and the spine which becomes impossible to treat and the person loses his life. Therefore, it is very important to be on the lookout for all the symptoms and signs if you fear you have been bitten by an animal which may carry the disease. It may take a few days or about a year after the bite for the symptoms to appear.
It starts with a tingling sensation around the affected area along with fever, muscle ache, twitching, irritability, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, and nausea. The symptoms worsen over time, the rabies virus can also cause confusion, abnormal thoughts or seizures. The affected person may also experience hallucinations, insomnia, and sensitivity to bright light, touch or loud sounds.
The infection is reported to spread through the muscles reaching to the brain nerves and causing them to swell which may result in muscle spasms, abnormal postures, stiffness and difficulty in speaking. The more severe symptoms include having double vision, excessive production of saliva or tears, foaming at the mouth, hydrophobia (fear of water due to difficulty in swallowing), paralysis. The infection may also cause difficulty in moving facial muscles.
What to Do If You Detect Rabies Symptoms
People should be extremely attentive and careful with coming across animals known to carry rabies infection when hiking, camping or if these animals infest in homes or nearby. They should take even the slightest sign or symptoms very seriously in order to take the preventive measures as soon as possible.
In case of a bite, wash the affected area with soap and run it under water for about 10 minutes to thoroughly clean it if there are any traces of saliva, cover it with a clean bandage and go to the hospital in order to get the right treatment. The incident should also be reported to the concerned authorities so they can search for the animal and detain it.